When President Obama said that the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons in the Syrian Civil War would cross a “red line,” he did so in an unplanned, unscripted way, taking his advisers by surprise.
One thing that’s gotten lost in the apparent use of small amounts of chemical weapons and the President’s efforts to back away from the “red line” comment is that he did say “large quantities,” meaning an event with mass casualties. But that’s not much of an excuse because really you either have a problem with the use of chemical weapons or you don’t.
The president clearly got ahead of himself when he talked of that “red line” last August, and he may find himself now pushed into actions he really doesn’t want to take.
But no president should use phrases like “red line” or “line in the sand” or anything unequivocal like that as casually and carelessly as it seems this president did. An adviser or cabinet member or senator can shoot his mouth off and back track, but when the commander in chief does, he’s stuck with either following through or losing credibility. This was an unforced error that might initiate a long string of them. I don’t see the wisdom in helping a bunch of Islamic extremists.